WAGGA has been pinpointed by deputy police commissioner Nick Kaldas as a place at risk of migrant teenagers turning to violent extremism.
In an interview with The Australian newspaper, Mr Kaldas named Wagga, Coffs Harbour and Dubbo specifically as regional centres where there were “emerging communities” of migrants.
He said the bridges built between law enforcement agencies and Sydney’s Middle Eastern communities needed to be replicated in regional towns and cities to reduce the risk of radicalisation in the country.
He told The Australian that many people, particularly young men, in these migrant communities had fled conflict zones, such as Somalia, Afghanistan and the Middle East, and were vulnerable to falling under the sway of criminals or extremists.
Wagga does have a growing refugee population, with families and individuals coming from the Sudan, west Africa and Myanmar, in particular, in recent years.
A number of young men have been victims of extreme violence in their homelands and have settled in Wagga without strong role models and, in some cases, with no family support whatsoever as they try to adapt to living in a foreign country while grappling with physical and emotional scars that make them vulnerable.
Wagga police and the Muticultural Council of Wagga were both provided with copies of the article and asked their views, but neither could comment immediately.
But the chairman of the Muslim Association of Riverina Wagga Australia, Dr Ata u-Rehman, acknowledged Mr Kaldas’s fears and said he was constantly working to build the community bridges the deputy commissioner spoke of and to promote good values.
“This is what I have been actively engaged with in my community,” Dr Rehman said.
“I don’t have to worry about my son living in Sydney or anywhere because he has been taught what it right and what is wrong.”
Dr Rehman said he saw the threat of radicalisation coming from a lack of engagement in local communities and the reach of the internet, which gives terrorists from far away the ability to groom vulnerable people in even relatively safe communities such as Wagga.
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